Nick and Connor roadmap the offseason for Pittsburgh and Boston, figure out why Washington has been so good (and Tampa), pick a winner in tonight’s Game 7 (WPG @ NSH) and explain how Vegas is going to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Also discussed, Jim Montgomery, Rod Brind’Amour, Don Waddell, the Charlotte Checkers (so Carolina as a whole) and Mark Hamill.
Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.
Thanks to a nor’easter back in January that postponed a Boston Bruins-Florida Panthers matchup to the very last day of the regular season in April, the Bruins have passed the 60 game mark just in time for the trade deadline to have come and gone.
In other words, thanks to the day off between Sunday’s game in Buffalo and Tuesday night’s matchup on home ice against Carolina, I was able to put together projections for all of the new additions to the roster from the last week or two (Brian Gionta, Rick Nash, Tommy Wingels and Nick Holden).
Anyway, through 60 games of the 2017-18 season, the Boston Bruins have faltered as of late to 3rd place in the Atlantic Division with five games in hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nothing to worry about– what’s that, Patrice Bergeron‘s out for at least two weeks?
Okay, still nothing to worry about. The Bruins have a secret weapon with the last name “Nash”. No, his first name’s not “Rick”, though Rick Nash could really bring this team to the next level as a result of his acquisition. The secret weapon is Riley Nash.
Yes, Riley Nash.
He’s having a career season that could result in 13-23–36 totals when all is said and done. Even with his current 10-18–28 totals in 59 games played, he’s set new career highs in all offensive categories. Imagine what an additional three goals and five assists over the next 22 games could do for Boston as they head down the stretch with some unprecedented depth-scoring.
But enough about Riley Nash, let’s take a look at the rest of the roster, shall we?
Take a look at the latest forecast for the Bruins in the charts below. As always, please keep in mind that my degree is in communication and not math or anything to do with numbers, really. My expertise is in words so if anything looks out-of-whack– it’s Microsoft Excel’s fault.
I’m just kidding.
There’s outliers in everything and not every prediction pans out. Again, these charts are only a utopian view on things– ignoring injuries, healthy scratches, sickness, bad hair days or anything else.
Boston Bruins Projections Through 60 Games (22 Games Remaining)
Rick Nash should fit right in alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line for Boston. In turn, the second line’s offense should breakout once the chemistry of a few games together is in flawless rhythm. Rick Nash just might end up with 40 points on the season, thanks to Krejci’s golden passes.
Hopefully that means another contract at the end of the season for the pending-UFA wearing No. 61.
Brad Marchand should top the scoring list for the Bruins for yet another year, surpassing the 70-point plateau with an expected 30-44–74 totals by the end of the regular season. Fellow linemates, Bergeron and David Pastrnak should also see some fantastic results over the next 22 games.
Even with his current injury– a fractured right foot– Bergeron should be able to set a new career high in goals (33). Meanwhile, Pastrnak should cruise past the 60-point plateau, primarily setting up helpers on Marchand’s gifted offense.
Boston’s answer to their opponent’s third line on any given night? Danton Heinen.
The rookie should amass 16 goals and 36– 36!– assists (52 points) in his first full NHL season.
Looking further down the lines, Tim Schaller should reach the 20-point plateau. As a fourth liner. The rest of the fourth line? Sean Kuraly should reach 15 points. Noel Acciari should notch 11 points.
Krug is on pace for 51 points this season, which would match his career year of… …last season. The only problem is when he has a bad night, he has a bad night. Still, his scoring and puck moving abilities far outweigh some of his drawbacks. His counterpart, however, is in the midst of a sophomore slump.
Brandon Carlo hasn’t been great. Fear not though, he’s still a top-four defenseman moving forward. The future of the Bruins blue line is contingent upon McAvoy leading the charge with Carlo developing more of a shutdown style. Though he is only projected to score one goal this season, his offense isn’t the main focus.
His plus-minus, however, should be. Carlo has a plus-11 entering Tuesday night. He’s projected to be a plus-14. For someone that’s averaging almost 20 minutes a night a plus-3 differential in the last 22 games of the season should be a bit of a concern considering Boston’s overall improvement in goal scoring from last season to this season.
In goal, Tuukka Rask is best limited to between 55-60 games and it’s looking like this year will keep him in that sweet spot. You’ve been warned, other 30 teams in the NHL.
Rask’s projected 2.21 goals against average and .927 save percentage rank 2nd and 3rd in his career in seasons with at least 41 games played.
Meanwhile, the real Anton Khudobin has decided to show up again. He’s a backup goaltender disguising himself as “having a ridiculous season”, well, until recently at least. A forecasted 2.44 GAA and .920 SV% isn’t the worst thing for a backup goaltender, but it doesn’t scream “is there a goaltending controversy in Boston?” (which, for the record, there never was since Tim Thomas‘s departure).
Khudobin filled in well at the beginning of the season when it mattered, but his luck has slowed. He’s performed his role well enough to earn another year in black-and-gold if Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, chooses to send him a new contract for another year while Zane McIntyre and Dan Vladar develop in the system (or Jeremy Swayman down the road).
As the calendar flips from 2017 to 2018 the NHL’s regular season keeps rolling along. Having played 40 games so far this season, the Boston Bruins are now in the midst of their bye week 2nd in the Atlantic Division (53 points)– ten points behind the Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Plenty of teams have been pleasant surprises, namely, the Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils through the first half of the season. To say the Golden Knights are merely on a hot start is a major understatement– there’s a legitimate chance Vegas will not only make the playoffs, but compete with the Lightning and Winnipeg Jets in what’s shaping up to be a competitive three-way battle for the 2017-18 President’s Trophy.
Regardless, Boston has not been a pleasant surprise. No.
If you’ve been tracking Don Sweeney‘s every move since becoming general manager in 2015, then you aren’t surprised at all to see that this year’s Bruins squad is playing on another level and turning heads around the hockey world.
It’s a very methodic approach– one that takes its time while patience wears thin among fans that demand excellence every shift in the Hub– but the Boston Bruins are ready for a breakout performance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (barring a second half of the season collapse).
While many are busy trying to come up with a nickname for Boston’s fourth line of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari— I recommend either “The 50s Line” (since Schaller, Kuraly and Acciari wear No.’s 59, 52 and 55 respectively) or “The B52 Line” (an ode to the music group, sure, but also a nod to Kuraly’s stellar anchor as the center)– it’s a shame no one’s come up with anything for the legend that is the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak line.
Usually it’s just “the Bergeron line”, but if you’ve seen the production from this line, you might just think back to the days of “The Uke Line”, “The Kraut Line” or “The Dynamite Line”– all of which were historic lines in Bruins franchise history.
Anyway, on with the show…
Through 40 games played this season, here’s a look at how every player on Boston’s roster should pan out for the remaining 42 games. Please remember my degree is in communication– not math– so any miscalculations are Microsoft Excel’s fault.
Boston Bruins Projections Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)
At this point in the season everything begins to look more realistic. Unless you’re still looking at Tommy Cross‘s projected stats. Again, that’s a product of forecasting a season for a player based on every career NHL game that player has played. Cross has yet to appear in an NHL game since the 2015-16 season; because of this, his numbers look more promising based on the formula alone than they actually probably would be, unless he knows something about his game we don’t.
Until a player like Cross (or other players with few career NHL games played) suits up in the 2017-18 season, that players numbers are reflective of a more “idealistic” season. In other words, it’s a pipe dream (until it actually happens).
The Bruins finally have a healthy lineup. Well, kind of.
Matt Grzelcyk‘s emerged from the shadows of the last couple of seasons– in which he made his professional debut and NHL debut. He’s solidified himself as a top-6 defenseman, capable of earning his ice time and/or McQuaid’s job at less than half the price (at least until this offseason, when Grzelyck’s entry-level contract is set to expire).
Grzelyck, 24, is seven-years younger than McQuaid and could provide the same amount of offensive production or more down the road. By default, Grzelcyk’s offensive game is better than McQuaid’s this season.
Of course, there’s some things working in McQuaid’s favor in his ability to block shots, use his body and throw punches when “the code of hockey” needs to be enforced.
Though, again, there is a younger blue liner– albeit by a year and at $250,000 less– that could carry the weight of the tough guy on Boston’s defense. That guy is Kevan Miller, 30, who’s having what’s poised to equal or surpass his career year of 2015-16 in points (18), while teaching Grzelyck the ways of a bottom-pair defenseman.
Brandon Carlo has yet to score this season and is– by all considerations– in a sophomore slump. But he is only 21-years-old and destined to solidify as a top-4 defenseman in his career. He’s no Charlie McAvoy, but it wouldn’t make sense to punish a young player for showing his youth in his errors that he’s made at times through the year.
Before you know it, McQuaid could be the next Paul Postma on the Bruins as another healthy scratch on a night-to-night basis– though providing much needed depth when one of the regular guys goes down with an injury.
The Bruins have a plus-29 goal differential after 40 games this season, which is seven more than they had at the end of last season.
It seems promising that Boston will continue to only get better offensively down the stretch with David Pastrnak seeking to best his career high in assists while amassing almost 70 points on the season. That’s just 1/3 of the Bergeron line.
Brad Marchand should easily reach the 70-point plateau for not only the second time in his career– but the second year in a row– as Patrice Bergeron continues to swing the momentum around in his scoring projections (expected to surpass at least 60 points this season).
Rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen will each have respectable numbers that should flirt with the 50-point plateau. DeBrusk may only end up with 20-26-46 totals, but Heinen should continue to charge down the stretch reaching 22-43–65 totals in his own spectacular rookie season.
It’s not Earth-shattering by any means, but it is highly underrated. Especially with a guy like David Backes on the same line.
Backes, in his own right, is bringing some extra bang for his buck this season. Having missed almost half of the season with diverticulitis and recovering from the surgical removal of part of his colon, Backes is lighter and better than ever.
And one more thing for the haters…
Tuukka Rask is back. This could be a Vezina Trophy winning season, if not more, for the Finnish goaltender.
The 2017-2018 regular season is rolling along as American Thanksgiving is once again upon us and everyone’s freaking out about some of the teams that are in playoff position (like Vegas) or not (like NYR) and all that stuff about “teams that are in the playoff picture by Thanksgiving traditionally make the playoffs based on stats”.
I’m as much of a stats fan as the next guy, but in today’s NHL, parity is unpredictable. There are some false positives in the playoff picture right now as there are equally some teams that we all thought would be dominating the Pacific Division currently– I’m looking at you, Edmonton Oilers.
Alas, the Boston Bruins find themselves in fourth place in the Atlantic Division as they are about to chow down on some turkey, quinoa and whatever else I’m sure Zdeno Chara is probably cooking up for them because if you haven’t already heard, his diet is better than Tom Brady’s*.
*I don’t actually stand by this claim, Mr. Brady. You’re still the GOAT.
Boston is one point away from tying the Detroit Red Wings in points, but would leap over them for sole position of third place in the division if the B’s tied Detroit, given the Bruins have a game-in-hand on the Red Wings currently. Likewise, if Boston added two points outright, they’d surpass Detroit (because that’s how the whole “2 points for a win, 1 point for an overtime/shootout loss and no points for a regulation loss” thing works).
Please remember that my degree is in communication– not math– so any miscalculations are Microsoft Excel’s fault.
Without further ado and to give you something to talk about at the dinner table while you stuff your face with sweet potatoes, here’s a look at how every player on the Bruins should pan out as the team has now played 20 games this season.
Boston Bruins Projections Through 20 Games (62 Games Remaining)
Keep in mind, young guys like Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk and others will even out in some of their individual stats with more games under their feet. Bjork probably won’t have 15 points on the power play, but that’s just what the formula in Microsoft Excel shows until he gets another 10 or 20 games in his system.
Guys like Grzelcyk and Rob O’Gara, while they’ve played games over a couple of seasons, are like Bjork according to the formula in that their total number of career games means just about the same as one season (or more accurately, 16 games so far) of Bjork. And obviously Tommy Cross is Tommy Cross.
Like Jordan Szwarz, Cross doesn’t have a huge sample of career games played and there haven’t been plenty of appearances since his last game at the NHL level (though Szwarz actually filled in for nine games while David Krejci, Ryan Spooner and David Backes were out with injuries).
Thankfully Spooner is back and can start racking up assists, while Krejci can settle in with Jake DeBrusk pulling his weight as a rookie.
Hopefully Peter Cehlarik continues to be making claim for a longer stay with the big league club instead of going back to the Providence Bruins like he did last season after making his NHL debut, because his play with and without the puck has certainly been impressive– aside from the clear chemistry he has with David Krejci.
Patrice Bergeron has improved since his lower body injury forced him out of the lineup, but he’s still looking at an “off” year for the next 62 games ahead. That’s right, a bad year for Bergeron is still worth 60 points in scoring.
Whenever Brad Marchand returns from the IR, he should be just fine.
Rask is best kept between 45 and 58 games in a season, so if Khudobin can keep up his current play for another 10 games or so before returning to his usual backup status, that should buy Rask plenty of time to recover from overworking the last three seasons (or more, probably more). Play Khudobin until he burns out, but hope he can take off almost 30 games from Rask’s workload compared to the last couple of seasons.
If you’re interested, here’s a look at how the Bruins should have been doing entering the 2017-2018 regular season.
Nick and Connor recap the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series, talk transactions and go long about the Boston Bruins. Additionally, the guys discussed the Radko Gudas incident and never actually say how much time he should be sitting out for his shenanigans.
In the words of Sir Elton John, “Saturday night’s alright for fighting.” If there’s a lyric that better describes hockey, I have yet to hear it.
To take it a step further, Saturday afternoon must not be too bad either, as Nashville visits the New York Rangers (SN) at 12:30 p.m. and Philadelphia hosts Edmonton half an hour later. After the matinees are complete, five contests (Buffalo at Boston, Toronto at Ottawa [CBC/CITY/TVAS], Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, San Jose at the New York Islanders and Los Angeles at Columbus) find their start at the usual time of 7 p.m., followed by Florida at Washington (NBCSN) 30 minutes after. Carolina makes its yearly visit to Dallas at 8 p.m., with Chicago at Arizona waiting an hour before dropping the puck. The stroke of 10 p.m. brings with it the start of Minnesota at Calgary (CBC), half an hour before tonight’s nightcap: St. Louis at Vegas. All times Eastern.
It’s nights like these that are hard to pick just one game to focus on, as there’s a good reason to watch at least half of them. Here’s a few that stick out to me…
- Buffalo at Boston: Rivalry night in Beantown is always a worthwhile experience.
- Toronto at Ottawa: Speaking of rivalries, the Battle of Ontario is another good one.
- Chicago at Arizona: Don’t tell anybody, but D Connor Murphy played his first four NHL seasons with the Coyotes.
- St. Louis at Vegas: W Chris Thorburn was one of Vegas’ expansion draft selections, but he ended up signing with the Blues instead.
Since we haven’t had the opportunity to feature the Bruins or the Sabres yet this season, what better way to make up for our transgression than by focusing on their rivalry tonight?
Let’s just put things simply: both these clubs have much higher aspirations for their seasons than the first two-and-a-half weeks have indicated.
The 1-5-2 Sabres have especially had a tough run of things, as they’re currently riding a two game losing skid after falling in overtime to Vegas on Tuesday and losing outright to Vancouver last night.
Since the Bruins don’t play for a city that starts with a ‘V’, maybe Buffalo has a chance this evening.
Averaging .8 points-per-game after his first two seasons in the NHL, C Jack Eichel was expected to lead the Sabres to one of the best offensive efforts in the league. Instead, Buffalo’s attack has averaged a (t)fourth-worst 2.5 goals-per-game effort, forcing the Sabres to be discussed in the same breath as the likes of Arizona.
Unless we’re talking about logo and sweater designs at a franchise’s debut, it’s rarely good to be compared to the Coyotes.
Though I threw Eichel under the bus, the Sabres’ struggles are certainly no fault of their first line. In fact, if not for the production of Eichel, LW Evander Kane and RW Jason Pominville, Buffalo might as well not have an offense at all. All three are averaging at least 1.13 points-per-game this season and they combine for 12 of the Sabres’ 20 goals. While it is nice to know that one line is capable of producing 60 percent of a team’s offense, I’ll bet the house that Head Coach Phil Housley would love for F Ryan O’Reilly‘s line to find their form sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, little has gone well on the Sabres’ defensive end either. Due at least in part to Buffalo’s 49.9 face-off winning percentage (11th-worst in the league), neither G Chad Johnson nor G Robin Lehner can claim a GAA under three. Lehner has certainly been the superior of the two netminders so far with his .9 save percentage and 3.14 GAA, and he’s likely to be tonight’s starter since Johnson was responsible for last night’s 4-2 loss to the Canucks.
If anything has gone well so far for the Sabres, it’s certainly been their penalty kill. Successfully rejecting 83.3 percent of opposing power plays, Buffalo ties for eighth-best in the NHL. Defensemen Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe have played exceptionally when shorthanded, as both have five shot blocks to their credit in that situation. But there’s an asterisk next to Gorges’ name: he’s hit that total in only four games played as compared to McCabe’s eight.
Alright, that’s enough laying into one team. Time to take on the 3-3-0 Bruins.
There’s little to complain about on the Bruins’ offensive end. Averaging 3.33 goals-per-game, Boston is tied for the ninth-best offense in the NHL. It’s been the LW Brad Marchand show so far this season, as his 4-5-9 totals are easily among the top-25 performances in the league so far.
Then again, that was before C Patrice Bergeron returned to action from his lower body injury. In only one game played against Vancouver on Thursday, the 32-year-old managed one goal and three assists for a four-point night, tying him for sixth-most points on the team with players that have five more games played.
Regarding Bergeron, I have two guesses: (1) he’s one of those guys that’s good at his job, and (2) last season’s not-so-great 53 points could be eclipsed rather easily.
Whether it’s Bergeron or Marchand leading the charge, the Bruins’ power play is one of the most intimidating in the league. Boston has found success on eight-of-27 extra-man opportunities for a fourth-best 29.6 percent success rate, including C David Krejci‘s team-leading four power play points.
Of course, for an offense to be clicking along as well as the Bruins’ has been and the club only have a .500 record, there might be a problem on the other end of the ice.
That problem’s name is G Tuukka Rask. Though he’s certainly been one of, if not the league’s best netminder since his debut in the 2007-’08 season (his .922 career save percentage is tied for best in the NHL since then among goalies with at least 50 starts, and his 2.25 career GAA is second-best in that group), he’s struggled mightily in his four starts to open this campaign, managing an ugly .882 save percentage and 3.3 GAA.
Could it simply be that he’s getting sprayed with pucks every time he takes to the crease? Unfortunately, not really. He’s seen an average of only 25.5 shots-per-game so far this season, which is right in line with the (t)fourth-best 29.2 shots allowed by the Bruins’ defense per game.
It’s a fact Bruins fans may not want to admit, but Rask has only seen his save percentage drop since his .93 performance in the 2013-’14 season, with the lone exception of last year when he matched his .915 effort from the 2015-’16 campaign.
This drop in play began at the same time Rask started seeing 50-60 starts per season, which hearkens back to a statement I’ve made countless times about the Bruins’ goaltender: you can only work a mule so much. He’s been overworked for the past four seasons to the point that his play is suffering. Hopefully with G Anton Khudobin in the picture, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be able to relieve some of the pressure off his starter so he can rediscover his true form before his best playing days are behind him. If not, the Bruins are in a deeper hole than even the most dire of pessimists could have predicted.
Of course, all that writing may have been for naught with Rask currently listed as day-to-day with a concussion after a collision with rookie F Anders Bjork Wednesday. Expect Khudobin and his .927 save percentage to start this evening.
The Sabres are just waiting for a breakout game, but they have yet to earn it. I truly do believe in their offense, but I have concerns about the defense going up against an elite scoring club in Boston. Though the TD Garden hasn’t exactly been friendly to its residents for the past few years, I expect the Bruins to win this game by dominating the scoreboard.
For the second-straight night, the DtFR Game of the Day required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner. This time, it was First Star of the Game W Alex Ovechkin scoring the overtime winner for the Washington Capitals to beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3.
Featuring four total goals, the third period was absolutely wild. It was set up by a two-goal second period, as both F Darren Helm and W Andre Burakovsky (D Dmitry Orlov and W Tom Wilson) found goals to set the score at one-all. Helm’s wrist shot at the 4:31 mark of the frame was particularly noteworthy, as it was his first shorthanded goal since April 9, 2015.
Eighty-five seconds after the second intermission ended, the flurry of third period goals began when F Jay Beagle (RW Alex Chiasson) scored a shorthanded wrister to give the Capitals the lead. It was a lead that lasted only 3:59 though, as Second Star F Tomas Tatar (F Dylan Larkin and D Mike Green) leveled the contest with a tip-in. Scoring subsided until Tatar (F Henrik Zetterberg and D Niklas Kronwall) buried his second of the game, a power play snap shot, with 7:15 remaining in regulation to take a 3-2 lead for the Red Wings.
Detroit almost managed to earn the victory, but Larkin’s delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass set up a power play opportunity for the Capitals. Held off the scorecard in his last game played, F T.J. Oshie (Burakovsky and C Evgeny Kuznetsov) was sure to take advantage, scoring his wrister with 61 seconds remaining in regulation to level the game at three-all.
The Red Wings apparently didn’t learn their lesson when Oshie forced overtime. 68 seconds into three-on-three play, D Trevor Daley earned himself a seat in the penalty box for tripping Ovechkin. Ovi didn’t seem to like that very much, as he ended the game only 48 later with a game-winning slap shot from his usual spot in the face-off circle to Third Star G Petr Mrazek‘s right, assisted by C Nicklas Backstrom and D John Carlson.
G Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 34-of-37 shots faced (.919 save percentage), forcing Mrazek to take the overtime loss, saving 37-of-41 (.902).
Not only was this the second-straight overtime game, but it was also a second-straight victory for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Visitors now trail the 10-5-3 home teams by only five points.